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Those straps are called epaulets, and they're derived from military uniforms. Originally, these straps held ribbons, ropes and other decorative materials that indicated rank and various affiliations. In the modern military, soldiers sometimes fold their hats and slip them under the epaulets. The style was then incorporated into other utlitarian garments like safari jackets and hunting shirts and it's now filtered down to military-style shirts from places as wide ranging as Dolce & Gabbana to Urban Outfitters.
My new shoes are very tight. How can I stretch them out? - Vernon
There are products you can buy from shoe stores, but honestly, they're basically just diluted alcohol. You can make it at home by filling a spray bottle with equal parts rubbing alcohol and water. Spray an ample amount on the inside and outside of the shoe. Make sure to get every seam and around the sole of the shoe, where it's most reinforced. Then insert some wooden shoe trees and let the shoe sit undisturbed overnight. If you'd rather let a professional handle it, we'd recommend checking out Reparacion Del Calzado Ol-Mar (Calle Argumosa, 31 Madrid 28012).
I have very thick eyebrows. What do you recommend for taming a wild set of masculine brows and without going too far and looking too feminine? - Javier
If you want to thin out and tame bushy brows, comb them straight up using a comb or a spare toothbrush. Any straggly hairs sticking out should be trimmed just to the top of the brow with a small pair of scissors. If you're actually looking to make them smaller, then you should head to a professional waxer. But we think you'll be pleased with a quick trim. After all, a lot of people think big eyebrows are a sign of power.
I picked up a used, but beautiful Martin Dingman glazed Italian calfskin belt today. It feels a little stiff and dry. What I can use to bring some life and suppleness back to the leather? - Matt
Leather's natural fibers will break down with time. That's why you should think of leather like you think of your skin. For your face to look its best, you've got to clean it and keep it hydrated. Your leather belt's not that different. Wipe the belt down with a slightly damp cloth and then let it dry at room temperature overnight. You want to make sure the leather is dry when you condition it. Use a conditioner like Leather CPR, which restores leather without leaving a greasy residue. Begin by rubbing in small circles, working your way over the entire belt. And remember, several lighter passes are better than one heavy-handed application. Especially on the rough, cracked patches. Just give yourself 30 minutes in between coats.
I have an afternoon first-date coming up. We're going to the art museum. Any advice on what to wear? - Austin
On a casual first date, we'd suggest jeans and a light button-down shirt (tucked in) and some nice leather lace up shoes. Wear a jacket. An unstructured sport coat will give you the added layer without overheating you or adding excess bulk. Plus, should the temperature dip, you can always offer it to your date. Finish off with some personal accessories like a patterned pocket square or a bracelet or two.
Can you help me find an inexpensive navy deconstructed blazer? I'm looking for something casual that I can wear as a light jacket that will still look good when a little rumpled. - Erik
An unstructured jacket is like a good diver watch—a wardrobe workhorse that always looks appropriate. One of our favorites this season is by Apolis ($248), a handsome American-made 3/2 roll lapel style. Life/After/Denim makes a simple sport coat as well, for a mere $128.
I got in a bicycle accident and ended up with a few bad scars on my face. What's the best way to diminish them even after everything has healed over? - Scott
Your best bet is the regular application of a topical treatment. Merderma is often recommended by doctors as the most effective at improving the color and texture of scars both old and new. But since these are newly formed scars, Invicible Scars is a popular minimizing cream made with aloe, licorice root and Vitamin C. Dermatologist Jeanette Graf has used it on several patients to soften new scars. "But it is not as effective on scars that are a month old or older," she says. "You also have to be consistent with using this product or any scar treatment. It takes four to six months to see the best results."
I wore my desert boots to a club and now there are stains and marks all over the suede. How can I clean them up? - Connor
You'll need a suede eraser (basically a brick of crumbly rubber) to rub away the scuffs and stains. Rub the stain like you're sanding a piece of wood or erasing a pencil's mark, until the stain disappears. Then use the brush to restore the nap, or fuzzy texture of the suede. You can get an affordable set through Amazon. And for more restoration and treatment advice, check out our Save Your Suede piece.
I'm looking for a pair of brown wing tips that have a worn-in look. Can I get this kind of thing new or should I look for a used pair? - Phil
Your best bet is to look for used styles. They'll be the most realistically worn-in, and you'll be able to get a good quality pair for a fraction of the cost. If you want to buy new, Calvin Klein and Rockport make some decent styles. But if you've got the patience, find a fresh new pair you like and wear them in yourself.
When I walk indoors on smooth surfaces with my leather soled shoes, I feel like I'm slipping a lot. Is there a way to make more grip on the sole? - David
You can scuff the bottoms of your leather soles so they offer some more traction, but you may not be up for that. And it doesn't always work. Some sharp dressed chaps who routinely find themselves in slippery or wet conditions swear by Topy sole protectors. It's a thin layer of rubber, which can be applied by any shoe repair shop, which will prolong the life of your shoes while provide extra grip.